“Family Responsibility Discrimination” is not the same as Sexism

I’m all for equality, but for equality of opportunity, not some feel good, “let’s move all the targets around so that everyone in the special groups gets a prize” equality, so things like this from a Slate article about Working Mother Magazine’s list of best places to work, frustrate me to no end:

Novartis isn’t alone in having serious dissonance between its official policies and the experiences of its female workers. Thirty-six companies that have been on Working Mother‘s 100 Best Companies list have faced “family responsibilities discrimination” suits filed by employees who are pregnant or care for young children, sick family members, or aging parents, according to Calvert. Plaintiffs prevailed in 15 of those cases, including in suits against Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young, two accounting firms often heralded for their efforts to retain women by instituting family-friendly policies.

In many ways, Novartis fits right in with patterns observed in this emerging legal area. With more than 2100 family responsibilities discrimination cases having taken place so far, lawyers in the field have begun to make classifications among them, coining terms like “maternal wall discrimination” to describe cases involving working mothers, “new supervisor syndrome,” in which a working parent doesn’t run into trouble until a new boss comes along, or “second child bias.” (Ditto, except it’s a second baby that comes along.)

I”ve done a lot of research on employment discrimination, but I have to admit that I have not seen the term “family responsibility discrimination” before.  I don’t understand why, if an employee has other responsibilities, whether they be to family, a second job, a hobby, or anything else, that interfere with the job that the employer needs done, the employer is somehow wrong for taking that into account.

Women will never get ahead as long as they keep claiming the mantel of family responsibility for their own, because an employer who needs an employee in a high level position needs that employee’s responsibility to be work.  Obviously, in most families with small children, there are going to be important responsibilities that must be attended to, and those responsibilities will sometimes have to come before one person’s job.  This is why it is foolish to think that a two people can both be full service parents and high achievers in their career as well.  One member of the family must put his or her career on pause occasionally, which may mean, and should mean, that you will be less important to your employer.  Unless you happen to be married to a senator, an employer simply isn’t going to pay big bucks for a job in which the employee is not vital to the organization. 

Individual families must work out which party will carry this role, or find a way to divide it, with both the family positives and the career negatives going to each party.  Someone’s career must suffer if there are family responsibilities to attend to.  Women do themselves a sexist disservice to assume that that person must always be the woman, and to expect employers to simply ignore and absorb the resulting costs.

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It drives me crazy that this is a trend now

My husband and I got engaged during my sophmore year in college, and married the summer between my junior and senior years.  He had dropped out of college, with 4 semesters under his belt, the year before we met, but has held a couple of retail management jobs that he excells at, as his subordinants and superiors alike never miss an opportunity to tell me. 

So we had always at least considered the idea that I would be the primary breadwinner and higher earner.  But when I graduated college with a B.S. degree in the truest sense of the word, and no clear idea of what to do next, we sort of hit a standstill.  I got a good but not great job at an insurance company; he continued to manage retail; we earned similar salaries and were happy and good, but stagnant and stuck.

I had always excelled in academia, and when I flirted with the idea of law school, he supported me wholehartedly.  The insurance job was fine, but neither one of us could leave to raise children, and as we matured, we had begun to both take on a Dr. Laura-like attitude that day care was certainly no place for babies.  So I would go to law school; I would get a lawyer job, and he would raise the kids.  (At least to those completely unable to anticipate the disaster that would hit the legal market), it made perfect sense. 

Most of my law school classmates gave it lip service as a good idea, but I could see that they thought it something that they  would never do; after all, the females would marry up, ot at least equal, and shun the “lower classes” who lacked a degree. 

But now, the New York Times tells me that everyone’s doing it.  (via Ann Althouse) And, of course, that it is full of problems we must analyze and navel-gaze to death. 

Related: Dr. Helen writes of an article about “operational sex ratios” (where one sex outnumbers the other, as is found among college-educated women). 

The rest of the article seems to go on about how women cannot find guys suitable enough for them because they (the women) are too highly educated and too “high level” [my words] for the men they date.

Hmm, so if I were in the market today, with a J.D., I would have a world of lesser-educated fellows for the taking?  Damn. 

Kidding, kidding.  Since I met my fellow when I was a mere freshman in college, and he’s still the one I would pick, no question, I must have won the freakin’ lottery.

A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle, Assuming That the Woman Can Be Taken Care of By the Government

I’ve been mulling over this article, from the women-centric, “unabashedly intellectual, but not dry or condescending,” allegedly feminist Slate spin-off Double X for quite a few days, and I still can’t come up with exactly what I can say about it.  Have you ever had someone say something to you that was so offensive, so unabashedly insulting, that you are literally too shocked to respond?  Erika Kawalek says (bolding mine, of course):

I want to emphasize something about the difference between the state of affairs for women in America and in the rest of the civilized world. The competitiveness people bring to “dating” and “closing the deal” here is underpinned by intense economic competition and the desire—increasingly, the necessity—for basic social and physical security. There is a secret amongst the Canadian and European women living in the Big Apple. I know this because I am Canadian and my closest girlfriend is French, and when we resident aliens get together we really tear up this country and how it treats its women. (Our dating lives are fine and always have been.) When we talk about dating or the possibility of having family, with a man or on our own or with—gasp!—a coven of like-minded women (why not?), the conversation is framed entirely by the fact that we can count on our native countries to look after us should we—for whatever reason—not be able to make ends meet stateside. Now, we should be able to secure decent futures for ourselves, with or without male partners: We have Ivy League degrees, speak multiple languages, are savvy and entrepreneurial. We are also a lot more calm about dating and mating than the American women we know, who seem plagued by contradictory forces. . . .

I’m always baffled that women here don’t demand the same benefits on which we Canadian and European women rely. It would make dating and mating a lot easier, that’s for certain. American family values? Where are they?

So, the basic thesis of the article, the entire assumption of the argument, is that women can be, nay, should be, more equal by being parented by the state.  Kawalek argues that America is keeping women down by not providing, to all extents imaginable, any and all needs of any children they should choose to bear.  That the state is keeping us poor women from landing a husband by not offering to pick up any and all slack that he may leave behind (to say nothing at all about the slack that the woman should and could cover on her own).  The implicit, but clear, assumption underlying this article is that the woman is not capable of covering her own life’s costs. 

It’s notable that Kawalek’s suggestions about the security brought to Europeans is clearly, egregiously incorrect.  She never even considers the facts that these policies in no way correlate with higher marriage rates, indeed marriage rates in France, Canada, and almost all of Europe are far below ours.  The European fertility rates have dropped so far as to be considered a crisis, and Canada’s is similarly low, yet our American rates are still at replacement levels.  Men and women are simply not refusing to date and mate as a result of our smaller safety net.  Facts are, as usual, completely irrelevant to liberals when compared to what “should work” based on whatever theory happens to be in their heads. 

But I’m used to that.  I should be used to liberals assuming that women, like minorities, are completely incapable of things that men are expected to do with no problem (somebody, of course, has to be producing the wealth that is going to be taken away from them and provided to the helpless females in Kawalek’s world). 

Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, said in his link to this article that the “dating secrets of Canadian and European women” referred to here “revolve around the state playing the role of the husband.”  I think Reynolds is too generous.  A husband expects some contribution and partnership with the wife.  Kawelek clearly wants a world where the state plays the daddy to the helpless child, dotingly covering any and all possible bumps in the road.  She, and her liberal cohorts, have so little respect for women, for me, for you or your wife or your mother or your daughter or your sister, that she thinks that it is only to be expected that we would need and demand that “help.”

Joy Behar is kind of an idiot. Even when I agree with her.

When I first heard that Joy Behar was getting her own show on CNN, I did some serious eye rolling.  Now, I try like hell to avoid shows like The Viewas much as possible, but somehow they just manage to seep into the world’s collective unconscious. (Things I seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge of, despite all my most rational desires: The View, Oprah, Paris Hilton, John and Kate + 8, The Batchelor, etc.).  Anyway, when I have watched The View (entirely not on purpose!), she sounds useless and shallow.  When I hear quotes from her, she sounds, well, useless and shallow, but usually also mean and nasty.  But, whatever, right.  I mean, who watches CNN anyway

But, I do depend on their website to get regular updates at work (Fox’s site pretty much sucks, and everything about MSNBC pretty much sucks), so I couldn’t miss her (debut?)article in CNN’s commentary section. 

On a recent tour of a Ukrainian orphanage, Elton John and his partner met Lev, a 14-month old HIV-positive boy.

They immediately fell in love with the child, but their possible bid to adopt the adorable tiny dancer was rejected by Yuriy Pavlenko, Ukraine’s Family, Youth and Sports Minister.

Mr. Pavlenko, here are some tips about family, youth and sports. Family doesn’t mean a huddle of orphans sharing a few soiled mattresses, it’s not youth if you die of AIDS before you reach kindergarten, and wrestling over dinner scraps is not a sport.

So, instead of leading with facts or argument, she starts right off with being a smartass.  Charming.

But that could be Lev’s fate now, because the Ukrainian government said Elton and his beau David Furnish are too old to adopt the boy. It sounds like the real reason is they’re too gay.

John and Furnish tied the knot in 2005, becoming one of Britain’s first gay civil unions, but Ukraine doesn’t recognize gay unions.

Ukrainian Orthodox Church spokesman Father Georgy Gulyaev called Elton John a sinner and said, “thank God it’s impossible under Ukrainian law for [him] to adopt a child.” Apparently in the Ukraine, God’s No. 1 priority is preventing gay couples from giving sick kids a better life. God would never want something like that to happen.

More with the sarcasm instead of argument.  I’m willing to bet that this woman thought that “No Bushit” bumper stickers represented the hight of intelligent political discussion.  But what really gets me is the “it sounds like” argument.  Why does it sound that way?  Because somebody in the country (not the person who denied the adoption) said something against homosexuality?  Or because it fits her narrative? 

Notice how off-handedly she buries the reason that the Ukrainians gave for denying the adoption.  And notice that she doesn’t mention how old Mr. John actually is (he’s 62, or about 14 years younger than my grandfather, who will welcome a great-grandchild this year).  It’s not in any way unusual for a 62-year-old to be denied the right to adopt, except for the fact that most of them probably wouldn’t even try, knowing that 40-ish is the cutoff almost everywhere:

The other option [as opposed to trying to get a baby in the U.S.] in pursuing an infant adoption is to consider countries that are more flexible concerning the age of the adopting parents. For some years, couples up to age 43 have been able to adopt from Korea or India . Those over 43 will find some Latin American countries that take applicants. African countries are very flexible on ages of adopters. China wants applicants who must be 30 or older, while Russian and Bulgaria have been open to those in their late 40s, especially for preschool age children.

So, if Mr. John had attempted to adopt in 1989, he would have had a hard time of it, gay or no. 

Now, here’s where I do agree with Ms. Behar.  I do think that, given this extra-ordinary situation, Mr. John and his partner should be able to adopt this child.  First, although I’m aware of the research indicating that gay parents are fine, I’m skeptical.  It’s still too new of a cultural phenomenon to draw thorough results, and you are going to have a hard time convincing me that the majority of the researchers don’t have an agenda on this issue.  That said, I think that it is at least very likely that a child is better off in a stable home with gay parents is better than a lot of alternatives, such as a Ukrainian orphanage.  (I’ll add that I don’t know the conditions of this orphanage, and although Ms. Behar lists some common stereotypical poor country orphanage complaints, she offers no support for the idea that this child’s situation was that bad.)  So, even if I’m skeptical of the idea that gays are always as good as a mother and a father, I’m not holding it against Elton here.  (At the risk of sounding mealy-mouthed, I’m not saying I’m against gay adoption in general, just that I’m on the fence.)

Second, I’m not troubled by the age thing.  Sure, there are a lot of problems with older parents, but, again, these are extra-ordinary circumstances.  While I hate to put consideration for one’s wealth above other concerns, I don’t overlook that Mr. John is a man of very significant means, and he can ensure that a child is well taken care of, even if he and his partner are unable to provide it.  And, once again, we have the alternative is a poor country orphanage argument, and given the fact that the child is HIV positive, he may have a reduced life expectancy besides.  Let a chance at a real family brighten up what life the child does have. 

Third, I’m not even at all bothered by the phenomenon of celebrity child shopping.  When we are talking about children who, in their home countries, would probably lack access to good education, healthcare, social development, etc., I really don’t care that a celebrity might get some self-congratulatory attention out of the deal.  Doesn’t matter a bit to the child that is not dying of malaria, in my opinion. 

Of course, why would we consider all of this, when we can just throw in some good old fashioned ethnic stereotypes, instead?

He’ll likely end up in foster homes and — if he lives long enough — maybe he can turn into a bitter, vodka-swilling drunk. All because the Ukrainian government won’t let him be adopted by two loving gay parents who are fabulously rich and want to give him a home with the best healthcare available, dressed in Versace jammies and cashmere Huggies. Not to mention all the play dates with Brangelina’s kids.